Demands of Kurdish hunger strikers not met

DIYARBAKIR (ANP) – The demands of the some 700 Kurdish hunger strikers in Turkish prisons have not been met. Despite that, PKK leader Öcalan called on the strikers to end the hunger strike, declaring that ‘the goals have been reached’. Possibly over the coming days more will become clear about the background to Öcalan’s call.

One of the demands of the hunger strikers was that Öcalan, who has been held on a prison island since 1999, should have access again to his lawyers, whom he hasn’t seen since July 2011. As well his family couldn’t visit him, officially because the boat to the prison island had broken down or the weather was too bad to cross over to the island. Despite that,a few weeks ago his brother visited him, and Saturday unexpectedly a new visit followed.

Possibly there has been a behind-the-scenes deal that Öcalan from now on can once again communicate with the outside world. Despite his imprisonment and isolation Öcalan is still the undoubted leader of the PKK, and he has enormous support among Kurds in Turkey. That’s the reason why his call to the hunger strikers means the end of the hunger strike.

The other demand of the hunger strikers concerned the free use of Kurdish in courts and in schools. Already a bill has been sent to parliament to allow speaking Kurdish in court, even when the suspect speaks fluent Turkish. That bill hasn’t been passed yet.

Education in Kurdish is still forbidden, even though Kurdish is now an elective course for children starting at age 11, including at state schools. The Kurdish demand is that it must be possible to give the whole education in Kurdish. It doesn’t seem realistic that this demand will be met in the short term. The subject is practically impossible to debate in the Turkish parliament.

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